SAVING LIVES FROM SNAKEBITE
Join the Global Snakebite Initiative (GSI) for an illuminating evening with one of India’s legendary leaders in reptile conservation. Rom Whitaker is a household name throughout the country for his many TV and film appearances, championing the protection of the king cobra and his lifelong mission to combat one of the most urgent yet often overlooked challenges: snakebite.
Snakebite is a global health crisis, causing approximately 550,000 global deaths and disabilities in 168 tropical countries annually. But nowhere is it more acute than in India. Each year, 58,000 men, women and children succumb to snakebites in the country. Hundreds of thousands more endure amputations, disfigurement, or financial ruin. But the world outside rural India has no idea.
At age eight, already smitten by snakes, New York-born Rom moved to India with his family in 1951. A quarter century later, the expat founded India’s first snake park in Madras and later established the iconic Madras Crocodile Bank in 1976, which receives a million visitors a year today. He trained a Tamil tribal community known as the Irulas to collect snake venoms essential in the manufacture of antivenom. Today, a staggering 80% of the venoms needed to make the life-saving drug within India are sourced from the Irula-owned and operated venom cooperative.
After five decades of grappling with the problem of snakebite, the now Indian national is attacking the problem with renewed energy to turn the situation around once and for all in his adoptive homeland.
Rom is making a rare return to the U.S. to tell us about this little-known global health crisis that’s finally been recognized by the World Health Organization. Learn about GSI and Rom’s extraordinary plan to scale up snakebite education and prevention to villages across 12 states of India, the largest campaign of its kind to date to save lives in India. Engage in a dialogue that explores solutions, ideas, and collaborations to combat this neglected crisis.